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Greiss Cements Himself in Islanders Lore with Game 7 Performance

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Thomas Greiss makes a save

When the New York Islanders won their first Stanley Cup Playoff Series in 23 years in 2016 it was Thomas Greiss in the net. On Saturday night, with the Islanders playing in the franchise’s biggest game in 27 years, it was Thomas Greiss again in goal to backstop them to a victory.

Thomas Greiss cemented his place in Islanders history with his 16 save effort on Saturday as the Islanders shutout the Philadelphia Flyers and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1993. The milestone victory was made even more impressive by the fact that Greiss was only starting in his second game of the postseason.

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The situation didn’t faze the ever calm, cool and collected Greiss though. The Islanders netminder came out sharp through the 60-minute affair and he recorded his first career playoff shutout.

Greiss came away with the timely saves that the Islanders didn’t get in Game 6. For instance, in the second period, he made a good save on a deflection attempt by Jakub Voracek.

“It’s just fun,” Greiss said about his performance and the shutout. “I’m just happy, more happy, that the team advances. Huge win for us and it’s unreal how well the guys played.”

Greiss had taken a rather winding road to get to the point he found himself in on Saturday night. Signed as a backup in 2015, Greiss was one of the biggest reasons why the Islanders advanced to the Second Round during the 2016 playoffs. This year he found himself as the backup once again as Semyon Varlamov started all but one of the team’s playoff games before Game 7.

Still, the circumstances found Barry Trotz turning to the 34-year-old keeper in another historic moment.

“It’s awesome,” Greiss said about delivering another franchise milestone. The ever-humble Greiss quickly pivoted the focus away from himself.

“It’s about the guys in the room,” he continued. “We all compete for each other. It’s a great achievement for the whole team and the fans. I’m happy I could help.”

It should be no surprise that Greiss didn’t pontificate more on his role in Game 7, but he certainly deserves to take a bow for the way he’s handled his appearances this series against the Flyers.

Greiss came in relief for Varlamov in Game 2 after the Russian netminder surrendered three goals in the first period. Greiss played lights out the rest of the way and only allowed one goal.

He followed that up with a 36 save effort in Game 4 as the Islanders took a then commanding 3-1 series lead. We all know what happened after that.

So when faced with the decision to stick with Varlamov or mix things up, Trotz had the confidence that he could turn to Greiss in a do-or-die situation.

“You have a lot of trust in Thomas and Varly,” Trotz. “We wouldn’t be at this point without both those guys. Thomas came in and won two games, but I was looking for some freshness. I also knew that with Greisser, just his demeanor he’d be a good choice for us. Like I said, we’ve been blessed with two goalies and you try to ride the hot guy as long as you can. Then if you have to go to the next guy you do that.”

Greiss became the first Islanders netminder since Chico Resch in 1975 to pick up a shutout in a Game 7. He also became the first goalie in the NHL to make 16 or fewer saves since Boston’s Gilles Gilbert did so in 1976.

The victory was Greiss’ second of the postseason this year he now is 7-7 lifetime in the playoffs.

“Anytime a goalie gets a shutout in a Game 7 you have to give it to him,” Scott Mayfield said about Greiss. “He played unbelievable. Some big saves and just the way he came after not playing a couple. There was kind of some talk about who was going to be in net and he got the nod, and he ran with it.

“I couldn’t be more happy for him. Great teammate, great guy.”

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New York Islanders

Can Dobson, Greene Really Fill Hole Left After Toews Trade?

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Noah Dobson

Going into this unique offseason, it was apparent the New York Islanders had difficult decisions to make with the flat cap.

That first real casualty came in the form of trading defenseman Devon Toews to the Colorado Avalanche for a pair of second-round draft picks.

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As was posited on this site before the start of free agency, the Islanders didn’t have a ton of space to make a splashy move and Lou Lamoriello needed to keep his focus on the team’s own restricted free agents. By dealing Toews, it left the Islanders more room in the future with cap space. In the short run, it doesn’t affect the cap space the team has this offseason, but it could help them make moves to free up some space.

But the Islanders also had to consider what the contracts they would end up paying out to their other big restricted free agents — Ryan Pulock and Mathew Barzal. Coupled with uncertainty of what the salary cap situation for the entire league might look like over the next few years, the Toews trade makes sense under that context.

Devon Toews Traded to Colorado for Second Round Picks

“Any time you see one of your friends and teammates traded, it sucks,’’ Anders Lee said this earlier week. “It’s not fun. It’s part of our business, that side of it. Devon is a great guy and a great player, and you wish him nothing but the best in Colorado.”

On its face, the loss of Toews is a tough one for the Islanders for a number of reasons. He was a key piece on the power play and he excelled in his possession metrics.

According to Hockey Reference, Toews had a 6.1 Corsi relative percentage last season, which was the best among the team’s defensemen. It did take a dip to 1.1 percent in New York’s extended postseason run and he struggled in the Eastern Conference Final, but Toews was an integral puck-moving blue liner for the Islanders the last two seasons.

So where do the Islanders get those minutes and production from now that Toews is in another uniform?

Well, the easy answer is to say Noah Dobson comes in and becomes a full-time player after an impressive 34-game stint in 2019-20. In fact, Dobson’s 4.8 Corsi relative percentage was the best among Islanders defenseman after Toews, albeit in about half the games played.

But Dobson’s pedigree and ability to play well within the defensive zone have made him a valuable piece of the puzzle going forward. When the Islanders made the deal with Colorado, Lamoriello said the team would not have even considered the move had they not had Dobson already in the mix.

“We would not have made this move if the ice time that Devon received, we didn’t have the ability to put a player into that,” Lamoriello said. “And Noah Dobson, we feel, is certainly ready to take the next step.”

The issue here is Dobson is a right-handed defenseman, so it’s pretty safe to assume he won’t be sliding to the left side. So that leaves the Islanders with a hole on the left. Andy Greene will likely don orange and blue next season and would be the top candidate to play alongside Dobson from the outset. But in turning 38 this coming season, it will be interesting to see what Greene can provide not only in minutes but in quality play down the stretch.

The Islanders did re-up with left-handed shooting Sebastian Aho earlier this month, and though he only has 22 NHL games under his belt, he’s still just 24 years old and gives the Islanders a little more depth on the left side.

There are options to fill the hole on defense, but there are plenty of question marks if the Islanders can still replicate — or get close to — the numbers Toews had with the New York Islanders.

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New York Islanders

Islanders TV Voice Brendan Burke Recalls Memories with Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick

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Brendan Burke along side Mike "Doc" Emrick at Barclays Center

New York Islanders TV broadcaster Brenden Burke had just walked out of the Barclays Center feeling pretty good.

It was the night of Oct. 16, 2016 and the Islanders had just defeated the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 in overtime off a goal from Josh Bailey for their first win of the 2016-17 season. It had been Burke’s first big moment as the television voice of the New York Islanders and he was particularly happy with the call he had.

Burke packed up his things and walked back to his home at the time in Brooklyn. It was then that he got a surprise email that capped the memorable night for the young broadcaster.

“I pulled out my phone as I was walking back and I think the NHL had tweeted out the highlight,” Burke said during a phone interview with NYI Hockey Now. “I felt really good about what I had done in that first real test and then I’m still on my walk home and a couple of minutes later my phone buzzes. It’s an email from (Mike Emrick) that says ‘hey you sound great.’  To have that on top of already feeling good about it, and then to have the guy who you think is the best broadcaster in the world tell you so is a very special moment for me.”

The goal and the email from legendary broadcaster Mike “Doc” Emrick have gone hand in hand in the mind of Burke since it happened, and it was a memory that came to mind on Monday when Emrick announced he was retiring from broadcasting. Emrick has called NHL games for the last 47 years and has been the voice of the league for the last 15 calling games nationally for NBC.

Emrick is regarded as one of the greatest broadcasters in all of sports and has called 22 Stanley Cup Finals, 45 Stanley Cup Playoff game sevens, six Olympics, 14 NHL All-Star Games and 19 NHL Winter Classics and Stadium Series games.

“He’s the best,” Burke said. “He became as big as the sport. You’re talking about a guy who won seven or eight straight sports play-by-play Emmys up against the Joe Bucks and Ian Eagles and the big guys. The guys that do the other big sports and he beats them all every year. … I love not only what he’s done for broadcasting and for the profession, but for the sport of hockey and elevating it to another level.”

Emrick’s overlap with the Islanders has been limited on the national stage. Emrick also served as the TV voice of the New Jersey Devils for 21.

Emrick famously called the Easter Epic on ESPN and was behind the mic for John Tavares’ game-winning goal in Game 3 of the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2015. Emrick noted the atmosphere at the Nassau Coliseum that game during his retirement conference call on Monday.

Mike Emrick was also on hand to call an early regular-season game in November of 2016 between the Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins. Sitting next to Emrick for the night to shadow the Hall-of-Famer was Burke.

“Just to see him go through the mechanics of (broadcasting), to see the notes that he had, to see what he has scripted out and what is off the top of his head,” Burke said while describing that night. “Just to see the way he goes about the game and interacts with his analysts when they’re off the air. The communication with him and the producer. I think I was 20 games into my television tenure and I was still very raw in a lot of those areas, especially in the ins and outs of television, so to be able to observe him doing those things was a really cool experience for me.”

Burke added: “I figured if I was going to learn a way to do things and to conduct myself in a television booth watching Doc work in my booth, sort of speak, was the perfect way to do it.”

As great of a broadcaster that Emrick was, he has often been described as an even better person. Reaction from across the hockey and broadcasting world poured in on Twitter following Emrick’s announcement on Monday, along with plenty of stories about his kindness and generosity.

Bridgeport Sound Tigers radio voice Alan Fuehring recalled receiving an email from Emrick last August after briefly mentioning that he was getting married. Emrick reached out to Burke as well following the announcement that he would be the new play-by-play announcer for the Islanders.

“He’s extremely kind and he’s genuine,” Burke said. “He really is that guy and he’s the person you want to ask a million questions and he keeps asking you questions. He wants to know more about you. That’s not an act, that’s him.”

The two have continued to correspond and talk since which included recently as Emrick prepared to call a game between the Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning during the Eastern Conference Finals.

“Always the consummate professional he was calling me to make sure that he was getting those names pronounced right and wanted to go over the Islanders names and double-check, and make sure he was ready to go,” Burke said.

It’s uncertain when hockey will be played again, but whoever NBC taps to replace Emrick will have big shoes to fill.

“We are all going to be sad that Doc won’t be around and I think the sport for certain is better off for having had him,” Burke said.

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New York Islanders

‘It Still Stings,’ Loss Drives Lee For Another Push

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Anders Lee

While the hockey world looks forward and waits to find out when or even if the 2020-21 season will start, New York Islanders captain Anders Lee took a moment to look back and reflect.

Lee and the Islanders are now just over a month removed from their season-ending loss in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals to Tampa Bay. It had been the deepest the Islanders had gone in the playoffs since 1993 and the run shocked much of the hockey world.

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